Regardless of the season, there are always plenty of students walking through the grassy (or snow-covered) area of the Law Quadrangle. People have long been fascinated with the beauty of its mystical architecture.
Consisting of four main buildings — the Lawyer’s Club, the John P. Cook Dormitory, the Legal Research Library and Hutchins Hall — the Law Quad has held a long and storied history, with the construction of the first of the buildings dating back to 1925 and the latest one having been completed in 1933.
First-year Law student Wencong Fa finds both the beauty and history of the Quad mesmerizing.
“I’ve seen pictures of it before I came here, but it was better than anything I could have imagined,” Fa said.
One of his favorite places in the Law Quad is the arch leading to the dining hall, since it serves as a great connecting space between the Law community and the rest of the University.
Fa finds the Law Quad’s inclusiveness very convenient.
“It’s an amazing place,” he said. “I like how it prompts you to get a lot closer to everyone. This is one of the reasons why we have such a tight-knit community at Michigan Law — you see your classmates, you see your professors. Everyone is really accessible since you see them all the time.”
For second-year Law student Justin Benson, this all-inclusive design captures the intellectual energy of the Law School.
“Wherever you go, you can feel that energy,” he said.
His favorite spot in the Quad is the Reading Room, both for its aestheticism and the muse it provides him, particularly when he is studying for hours on end.
The first time he set eyes on the Quad, Benson was an undergraduate student at the University. He used the intriguing qualities of the Quad as motivation to work hard so he could have the opportunity to be a Law student in such an inspirational area.
“(The Law Quad) is old and beautiful, and I think that’s what makes it an appropriate space to become a lawyer,” Benson said. “You are surrounded by extremely bright and engaging colleagues and being around these people and the Quad’s beauty is what makes it so conductive to the study of law.”
For J.S.D. candidate Tianlong Hu, the fascination with the quadrangle has more to do with the smaller things.
As an international student from China, he served as a receptionist for Chinese visitors and has found the main attraction to the Quad are the minor details — usually looked over by most.
“They are more interested in seeing the soft parts, like those window glasses on Hutchins Hall or those little sculptures in the building walls,” Hu said.
He said these soft details even inspired a legal historian at Peking University Law School in China to improve the campus courthouse with decorations inspired by what he saw in the University’s Law Quad.
“People usually (overlook) small details and don’t pay attention to them, but visitors show a different viewpoint,” he said.
Another aspect that is very impressive to international visitors, Hu said, is the modern functionality of the old buildings.
“They are surprised to see how the buildings that are 80 years old are able to incorporate modern technology like elevators,” he said.
The concept behind the Law Quad’s classic construction has its roots in the 1400s, when the leaders of Cambridge’s King’s College in England had a philosophy of designing a school with everything included in the same site. The Law Quad’s design was inspired by such a concept.
A quadrangle by definition is a space or courtyard usually in the shape of a square or rectangle whose sides are walls of buildings. Though the design was very common in European colleges, American universities prefer to have multiple college buildings spread across campus.
University Planner Sue Gott said the University’s Law Quad took this understanding to build an all-inclusive residential, learning and research environment through a gothic revival for the University’s Law students.
The buildings comprising the quad were built in a variety of related styles, including English, Elizabethan and gothic. They also have classical features, with Greek revival themes snuck in throughout the complex. The quad itself includes a number of details, including six sculptured corbels crouching at the main entrances that have the faces of prominent past University presidents James Angell, Marion Burton, Henry Frieze, Erastus Haven, Harry Hutchins and Henry Tappan.
Even for those who aren’t familiar with the history of earlier colleges, the quad provokes a sense of awe in most spectators far and near.
“It’s simply a magical and inspiring setting because it is unique and not typical to other areas of campus and even other campuses across the country,” Gott said.
Gott said the Law Quad’s beauty and early design are planned to be maintained as the complex adapts to building codes and makes use of state-of-the-art construction methods.
“We will always be evolving and adapting but certainly pursuing (the Quad’s) integrity,” Gott said. “Any new or future development would be sensitive with a compatible design.”
Back in the 1990s, developments included the construction of a state-of-the-art Moot Courtroom. Currently the Quad is undergoing even more additions, which include the Law School Academic Building and Hutchins Hall Law School Commons.
The purpose of the Academic Building is to house more classrooms, clinical work spaces, multi-purpose rooms and offices for the faculty and administrators of the Law School. The Commons is being built to accommodate student study, interaction and support rooms.
“It’s designed to very clearly express that it is within the collection of buildings of the Law School so that it will very intuitively speak to you as a continuation of the quad,” Gott said.
Whether the buildings in question were built back in 1925 or in 2011, their irrefutably unique qualities — be they breathtaking archways or modernized technology within the walls of the magical structures — will continue to provide a muse for University students for years to come.